Pager has just raised $14 million to bring its on-demand doctor service to San Francisco and beyond.
New Enterprise Associates, Sound Ventures, Goodwater Capital, Lux Capital and Montage Ventures all contributed to the round. In addition to the capital raised, the company welcomes chief medical officer of Oscar Health Insurance Aran Ron to its executive ranks. With cash in hand, Pager will be looking for expansion opportunities, both into new markets and through partnerships with healthcare organizations.
Pager was founded in 2014 by Uber’s chief technology officer Oscar Salazar, Gaspard de Dreuzy, and Philip Eytan, to connect non-emergency patients with nurses and doctors who make house calls in the New York city area. Patients select one of three types of appointments: sickness or injury, a physical, or a health check, and Pager links them to one of its 40 doctors. On the whole, patients tend to use Pager for upper respiratory problems, like a persistent cough or Streptococcus (also known as strep-throat), common infections, and minor injuries.
Pager’s healthcare professionals remotely evaluate patient requests to determine whether an ailment falls within the scope of what they’re able to treat, before agreeing to an appointment. After each session, nurses and doctors follow up with patients in a phone call or text. Patients can continue communicating with doctors through the app.
Pager visits may also be covered by your health insurance — at least in part. A few months ago, the company transitioned from being entirely out-of-pocket for patients, to a network model. Pager now works with insurers so patients can be reimbursed for their visit.
The platform is designed so that doctors can share electronic health records within the network as well as outside of it. Pager is able to share a client’s records with their primary physician, for example, as well as with a patient’s other doctors.
Partnerships with hospitals and medical networks are a big part of Pager’s plans.Though it’s not an electronic medical record company, Pager does hope to integrate more deeply with existing healthcare provider networks so that a patient’s records are always up-to-date regardless of where a patient is being treated or by whom. This is tricky. There are myriad electronic health record providers, and electronic health care systems are notoriously difficult to integrate with.
“It’s not going to be easy. There’s nothing about building a large business in digital health that’s easy,” says Mohamad Makhzoumi, general partner at New Enterprise Associates. He acknowledges that it will be difficult for Pager to hook into legacy healthcare networks, but says he’s encouraged by the healthcare industry’s willingness to work with startups like Pager. When the Affordable Care Act initially passed, many health care networks were actively opposed to innovation coming from outside the traditional healthcare framework, he says.
“I can’t think of another time when there has been more mind-share in large organizations in healthcare to partner, buy, and experiment with products like Pager,” says Makhzoumi. “That’s not to say it will spur immediate action,” he adds quickly. Integration between health care technology platforms like Pager and traditional healthcare providers will be a slow-going process, but now that the industry is in a more cooperative mood there’s more opportunity for Pager to gain traction.
Pager says it’s hoping to expand to San Francisco next month. After that it will consider Los Angeles and Chicago, among other major cities, but don’t expect to hear about new regional launch plans until 2016.
Update: A previous version of this article stated that Aran Ron was a former chief medical officer of Oscar Health Insurance. Ron will continue serving at Oscar Health Insurance in addition to his new role at Pager.